Thursday, 6 September 2018
Miles Davis - Birth Of The Cool (1949-1950)
Released in 1957
Recorded in 1949-1950 in New York City
This is an album made up of recordings from 1949-1950 that is regarded as seminal in the post be-bop development of jazz, as the title says, it is considered the birth of what was known as "cool" jazz. Apparently, this was where forties-style big band arrangements merged with relaxed, laid-back hip improvisation - brush drums, melodic stand-up bass, intricate keyboards, alto saxophone and baritone saxophone together, of course, with Davis's trademark trumpet. The quality of the sound recording is superb, particularly considering their date.
The "cool", I guess, referred to that late-night smoky club ambience and finger-tapping on tables "hip" - an earnest, detached but knowing elegance. The decadence of the thirties brought up to date in the considerably more aware fifties. Jazz musicians were often black, they took drugs, they womanised. Miles Davis matched all three descriptions. The development of jazz like this and the clubs in which it was played was quite socially significant. New York, West Coast USA, London - they all had burgeoning jazz club scenes, and many provincial towns in Britain and the USA turned on to the "cool". These were, as Van Morrison often tells us, the "days before rock 'n' roll". This was, at the time, the trendiest music around. The album, of course, was released seven years after the music's recording and, although rock 'n' roll was obviously emerging, this was still considered far more hip.
Virtuosity was also encouraged in this type of jazz - be it saxophone, piano or bass and it came to define the "cool" era. Effortlessly stylish. Even now, just listening to it makes one catch that buzz, cats.